Samuel Langhorne Clemens, more widely known as “Mark Twain,” was born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835. His father, John Marshall Clemens, was a lawyer by profession, but could only find work as a merchant.
In 1839 John Clemens realized there was nothing for him or his family in Florida, and they moved to Hannibal. Mark Twain, as we will refer to Samuel Clemens, attended school in Hannibal until 1847, when his father died. The children were now expected to help support the family. Twain’s older brother Orion was already a printer by trade, and his older sister Pamela taught music. Twain himself was apprenticed to a printer named Ament, at the age of 12. His wages consisted of his board and clothes.
In 1850 Orion bought out a small paper in Hannibal, and Twain went to work with him. Twain began his writings in this small town paper, but they weren’t fully appreciated.
In 1853 Twain moved to New York. That summer he work in a printing-office on Cliff Street, then moved to Philadelphia briefly. After a short visit to Washington Twain returned west.
Twain met up with Orion again in Keokuk and they continued their
printing. Twain remained in Keokuk until 1857 when he caught a touch of South American fever and decided to go to Brazil. In April of 1857 he took a steamer to New Orleans where he expected to find a South American vessel. But instead of a vessel Twain found Horace Bixby, and decided to become a pilot. In eighteen months he was on of the best and most careful pilots on the river, entrusted with some of the most valuable steamers. He continued as a pilot for two and a half years.
Twain was in New Orleans in 1861 when Louisiana seceded, and enlisted with a company of young fellows and set out as a sort of nondescript cavalry detachment. It rained hard the first two weeks after Twain enlisted, which made soldiering hard and disagreeable, and he resigned. He went to Nevada with Orion, who had since become a Union abolitionist and received an appointment from Lincoln as Secretary of the new Territory.
With no work or pay, Secretary Orion set to mining. He and Twain became a professional miners, but not a rich ones. During this time Twain sent sketches to the Virginia City Enterprise, under the pseudonym “Josh.” The editor, Joe Goodman, recognized his potential and offered him the position of local editor, in 1862. Twain walked one hundred and thirty miles on bad roads to take the job, and his salary started at twenty-five dollars a week.
When Legislature convened at Carson City he was sent to report it, and for the first time signed his articles “Mark Twain.” The name was actually a river term used in making soundings, recalled from his piloting days. After becoming a skirmish with the Nevada law, Twain move to San Francisco. There he wrote for a couple of literary papers including The Golden Era and The Californian. Officials disliked some of his editorials, and he left for Calavera County with Jim Gillis where he returned to mining.
When matters quieted down in San Francisco, Twain returned. He penned a story about a jumping frog that he had heard in a mining camp, and sent it to be published. It appeared in the Saturday Press on November 18, 1865, and was a huge success. Other papers printed and reprinted it, and it was translated into various different languages. Twain didn’t think much of it, and found it annoying that such a trivial story should gain him so much recognition.
Disappointed with his writing career, a friend advised him to deliver a
lecture. Twain was an entertaining speaker, and added lecturing to his list of professions. Throughout out the rest of his life he would travel and lecture when he wasn’t writing.
On June 8, 1867 Twain embarked on a five month steamer tour, while writing for the New York Tribune. Upon his return home, he found himself famous. Publishers everywhere wanted to put the articles he’d written while touring into book form.
The book, entitled Innocents Abroad, was an immediate success. Twain married Olivia Langdon, and settled in New York. They had a child, named Langdon, but he died in 1872. That same year Twain published Roughing It, and decided to take a trip to London to obtain material for another book.
In 1874 he and his family moved into a newly built house in Hartford.
Literary figures often visited Twain at his home, Rudyard Kipling even
declared he had come all th way from India to visit Mark Twain.
Twain invested most of his money in various unsuccessful commercial ventures. Meanwhile he wrote and published Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
In 1878 Twain took his family on a trip to Europe, where, due to
finances, they settled permanently in Berlin. April, 1894 Twain found
himself bankrupt, and nearly one hundred thousand dollars in debt. He returned to lecturing in an effort to pay off his debt, and was on a
lecturing trip when his daughter Susy died.
Twain’s family then joined him in England, where he worked at the story of his travels which cleared him of his debt. In 1900 he and his family returned to America.
In 1904 TwainÃ?Â¹s wife died, and he lived with his children in Connecticut. In his later life Twain received high academic honors. He received a Master of Arts degree and a Doctor of Literature from Yale College, and the same from the University of Columbia Missouri. In 1907 Oxford awarded him the doctor’s robe. All these honors were given to a man who dropped out of school at the age of 12.
Twain lived peacefully in Connecticut, and continued to write.
Unfortunately tragedy struck again, and his daughter Jean died. A few months later, April 21, 1910, Mark Twain followed his daughter.